still jamming

Still going strong with Jamuary. It was a struggle a couple of times, but never for lack of ideas. Creative block is really not a problem for me, as long as I have the motivation to start. Apparently “try for a full 31-day Jamuary” is enough motivation to overcome sickness, tiredness and ennui.

Then there are technical issues. With one particular jam, I wanted to actually use Bitwig’s clip launcher as intended, with short MIDI sequences in different columns, cuing up the next clip to be switched to. But it interfered with my usual recording method (just record the master channel to an empty clip cell), and something — I never figured out what, why, or how to stop it — kept switching me to column 4, and not at the end of the currently playing clip. So I tried setting up the handy loop recorder module in VCV Rack, played what I thought was probably a fantastic take (despite the scrambling of my selected sequences)… and discovered I’d recorded 7 minutes of utter silence. I yelled at Bitwig in ways that I usually reserve for Microsoft products at work, downloaded the old Voxengo Recorder and tried again. The result was actually pretty good, at least.

(Lesson learned: limit my clip launcher sequencing to exactly zero or one clips. That doesn’t seem to be how the software is intended to be used, but it works without a hitch and it’s how I’ve used it 99% of the time anyway…)

I’m listening to my first 15 jams at work today and thinking that a fair number of them are album material. At the start of February I’ll most likely curate, name, master, and publish them as my first 2023 album, then go back to working on the project I’d started in mid-December.

Someone else’s Jamuary entry mentioned Lancinantes, a drone-oriented VST plugin which had escaped my notice before. It’s just three additive oscillators with gradually shifting random harmonics, plus a sub oscillator and noise, with a filter and delay and reverb. While I might have wanted more control over the harmonics, each section can be overdriven, and the result turns out to be something I’m not sure I could patch as easily as I might have guessed. It was cheap, so I picked it up.

I don’t think I mentioned that I picked up a Lite2Sound PX from Rare Waves. From the description and samples, it’s sensitive enough to “hear” the wind disturbing the sun or pick up the sound of a radio from reflections on its surface. In my experience though, whether you get a loud or quiet, interesting or boring signal, or silence can vary despite the automatic gain correction — and sunlight seems to be silent, amybe thanks to our windows blocking UV? So far the best thing to point it at has been the Nixie tube clock, which plays a sort of rich chord drone. But I should grab the little Olympus recorder and take it on an excursion; I want to see how it treats sunlight ripples on Lake Creve Coeur among other things.

Speaking of recorder, my brother gave me a vintage Hohner melodica for Christmas. It’s a bit more solid than other melodicas in my experience and has the sound to match. Some lovely chords, which would be great drones if my breath held out. I’m going to have to record that and make use of it for sure.

Aside from music, I’ve been occupying a little of my time with anime — because the delicious chicken tortilla soup I love so much isn’t so easy to eat perched in a easy chair while also reading a book. After a couple of failed “pick something on NetFlix” sessions I settled on Orbital Children and have been enjoying it quite a bit. I started to describe the plot to my wife and she wanted to know if it was basically like Assassination Classroom, where the premise seems ridiculously bizarre and yet it’s surprisingly heartwarming. Well… not quite that bizarre, and not quite as heartwarming, but still satisfying.

I really was hoping I’d love Exception, with an adventurous far-future SF premise, gorgeous visual design and style, and music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. But I was irritated by the writing, on multiple levels. Eh.

I’ve been spending more time playing Soulstone Survivors. You have a low-polygon fantasy character who runs around autoattacking, as you move and aim. It starts off with your basic dungeon crawl goblin stabbing, and ends up with speeding around like a greased pinball setting off explosions and lightning and holy wrath and poison clouds all over the place like a mech pilot whose Alpha Strike button got stuck, while leveling up about six times per minute and increasing your damage, area of effect and attack speed every time… and you have to turn the effect opacity down to about 10% to see the HUGE red warning zones where bosses are doing the same right back atcha. It’s frankly kind of ridiculous and stupid, but it’s compelling somehow. And I think it’s going to let me ignore the Diablo 4 release because I’m still not happy with how Blizzard treats its employees.

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